Plover Lovers Unite 2017 

East coast Tasmania

November, 2017

Expressions of interest now being taken.
Maximum group size 12 people.

Help protect and study the bewitching hooded plover, Thinornis rubricollis – the clockwork birds of the littoral zone – on a journey along Tasmania’s shining east coast. 

Hoodies are small cheerful shorebirds that nest in sand hollows on picturesque sandy beaches. They’re listed as vulnerable and are thought to be at risk from “blink” extinction: a species that seems to be numerous and then vanishes in a single season. The reason is to do with breeding success – the birds can live up to 16 years, but if breeding fails over that period, it’s hard to notice they’re going till they’re gone. A 2015 breeding-season study reported that many hoodies had limited success, with one pair laying 16 eggs, but producing no chicks. 

About 40 per cent of Tasmania’s hoodie population occurs in just four locations along the east coast. The aim of this scientific trip is to physically fence active breeding areas to measure the effect on nesting and chick numbers. We’ll also contribute to the knowledge of hoodie behaviour by observing them during breeding season. Among things yet unknown are which partner takes primary responsibility for the nest, and how long each bird’s “incubation shift” lasts. 

The expedition’s lead scientist is ecologist Dr Eric Woehler, Birdlife Tasmania convenor and a research associate at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies and University of Tasmania. Eric has studied Tasmanian shorebirds and lobbied for their protection for 30 years. His numerous coastline field trips have provided essential data for shorebird management and care, and his knowledge and passion for them is both entertaining and inspiring.

The trip will take in some well-known Tassie coastal beauty spots, for example Maria Island’s Reidle Bay, but guests will also get the opportunity to visit hidden lagoons and beaches that are essential to the plover’s survival. 

We’ll have the chance to see other migratory shorebirds passing through, such as fairy terns, red neck stints, sooty and pied oystercatchers and black-fronted dotterels, and to encounter endemics such as the Tasmanian native hen, Tasmanian thornbill and the yellow-throated honeyeater.

No special skills are required: just a willingness to carry survey gear and an interest in learning more about ‘hoodies’. You'll be given training by scientists and spend time learning about the region’s plants and birds, and the work that’s being done to protect them. 

We'd love to have you along. If you're interested in coming or would like more information, please send us an email, or give us a call on 03 6234 4918.